How to Promote Yourself Without Feeling Like A Sellout

By on May 02, 2014 . Category Column

Today’s writer isn’t just a writer—with the advent of social media and online promotion has made it so that even traditionally published authors are expected to handle a huge chunk of their marketing.  Writers need to know how to build a following and connect with fans.

But how does a writer do that?  While there are bound to be unique cases, the average writer is quiet, introverted, and painfully unsure of their work.  This combines to make just about the worst natural marketers in the world.

Or…does it?

You might be surprised to find that marketing actually comes very, very naturally to everyone.  You just haven’t realized you’re marketing, or what you’ve been marketing.

Every time you rave about a movie, buy a book for a friend and insist they read it, recommend a restaurant, or give any other kind of suggestion to any other humanoid being, you’re engaging in marketing.  Probably some pretty effective marketing, too.  How many of your friends have you convinced to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier?  Not that that movie needed much help getting into the public eye, but I’m willing to bet you still insisted someone see it, huh?

That was marketing.  That was you promoting a product or service.

So what’s the difference?  The difference is how you’re thinking and feeling about marketing.  When it comes to our own work, we tend to freeze up.  It feels like bragging.  It feels self-centered and fake.  It feels ugly.

But it’s not.  Self-promotion isn’t some kind of despicable act—it’s simply the true and genuine sharing of what you have to offer the world.  Is everyone going to like what you’ve written?  No, of course not.  But how are the ones who WILL like what you’ve written going to find it if you don’t get it out there?

The first step to self-promotion is to stop thinking of it as some kind of inappropriate, rude, burdensome act.  We must come to realize that it simply a natural part of our lives, and frankly, most people will be happy to hear your message…as long as you deliver it right.


How to Deliver Your Message

OK so that’s fine and dandy, but how do you deliver your message “right”?

By following this simple, perfect advice from prominent indie author Ksenia Anske:


“BE YOURSELF. Never fake it. Bad days, good days. Be honest. Get naked in public.

It’s the only way to write.”

The only way to earn a genuine following online is to be yourself.  Ever seen this tweet?


And how many times have you actually responded to something like that?

None.  Because it doesn’t work.  Because you don’t care.

But when you build relationships with people—when you get out there and act as your genuine self, you will make friends.  They will be happy to hear about your stories and new releases.  And what’s more, they’ll be happy to help you get your message out there.

So get online.  Get on whatever platform you like most—whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or something else entirely, hop on there and get chatting.  Reach out.  Offer advice.  Offer help.  We grow our business (our brand—ourselves) when we add value, and we add value when we solve problems.  So solve some problems! Find the groups for likeminded individuals and make some friends.  This is remarkably similar to connecting with other writers, because really, that’s just what you’re doing.  You’re connecting with other people.



Make sure you’re posting strategically, of course—you have to be consistent in your posting.  Ignoring your Twitter for three weeks then blasting out a bunch of tweets one day is going to get you nowhere, and you’ll wonder why social media isn’t working for you.

Get on there every day, for a least a little bit, and make some connections.


DON’T be Salesy

The last thing you want to do is blast out a bunch of ads and sales pitches.  As we covered earlier—people don’t respond to that.  They don’t want to hear your soulless promo.

But they DO want to hear from you.  Be humble without being self-depreciating.  Be aware of your talents without being a braggart.  Be friendly and open to praise as well as criticism—you don’t have to let it get to you, just let it go.  You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; as long as you’re genuinely you, you’ll know that you’re on the right track.


Make Sure People KNOW You’re Selling

While you don’t want to be salesy, you DO want people to actually be aware that you’re selling something.  Build up your friendships and connections, then inform them that you have a book/website/whatever.  Do it the same way you would tell a good friend that their favorite store is having a sale.  Say it naturally.  If you’re having trouble with that, ask for help!  Or look for examples.  People like John Green do an excellent job of connecting with their audience in an organic, totally natural way.  Admire that.  Emulate that.  Seek to find your very own means of delivering your message in a friendly and genuine way.


In short, be you.  There is a unique story in you that no one else can tell, and someone wants to read it.  The best way I’ve ever heard it phrased, and I wish I could remember who said it, was:  “Someone’s favorite book is trapped in your head, and you owe it to them to write it.”  Wow.  That says it all.


How do you reach out to fans (or potential fans) on or offline?  What has been your most successful, and enjoyable, marketing and self-promotion tactic?


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